WWW Wednesday

I’m still listening to The Amber Spyglass on Borrowbox. I am in awe of the world and narrative created which has completely drawn me in – perfect in-car entertainment! I’ve just started Amari and the Night Brothers which I had intended to read by now, but a few others got in the way! One of the children in my class has given me her copy of The Wizard in the Shed to read during our ‘Reading for Pleasure’ session. I’m really enjoying this which has a great mixture of humour and warmth.

I finished reading Shadows of Winterspell for Middle Grade Marvels Book Club. I’ve had this one on my TBR for about a year, so I’m really glad it was chosen as I loved the story. This story tended to reveal a lot of information quite early on in the book which I actually found very refreshing. We know Stella’s background and her connection to the Shadow King early on in the story. She lives with her ghost Nan and their imp, Peg on the outskirts of the forest. She has been taken there for her protection, but Stella wants to assert her independence so insists on starting school which is not quite what she expected. Once there, she forms some wonderful friendships, makes some intriguing discoveries and makes a decision to confront her past in an effort to help the magical creatures battling against the shadows in the forest. This is one I would definitely recommend.

I also read Tamarind and the Star of Ishta which I absolutely loved. Tamarind’s mother died when she was a baby and her father took her away from her country of birth, India. He has since re-married and brings her back to meet her mother’s family in India whilst he and his new wife honeymoon. Once there, Tamarind begins to discover more about her mother and her family. This is a story of finding your identify, belonging and friendship (both difficult and easy) encapsulated in a wonderful mystery as Tamarind tries to discover the identify of the unusual girl, Ishta, who she meets in the garden of her ancestral home. This is a short book (202 pages) but it packs so much in … it drew me into this richly described world and really did take me on a wonderful adventure.

I was sent a copy of The Lost Child’s Quest by the author. Another short story and the start of a series. I loved the mix of history and legend and thought it was a brilliant start to a series I will definitely want to continue. I will be posting my review shortly.

I also read the final part in The Wild Magic trilogy, The Promise Witch. The Little Grey Girl is still my favourite book in the trilogy, but I did really enjoy this one and thought it was a great conclusion to the series. Mup and Crow are taken by a raggedy witch called Magda who intends to use them to regain her place amongst the raggedy witches. I love how deep emotions run in the story and the lyrical quality of the writing is gorgeous. The friendship between Mup and Crow is just wonderful as is the strength shown by characters who have been wronged by the witches in terrible ways as some seek to help and others to redeem themselves. The strength and unity shown by oppressed peoples as they stand up for themselves and fight for their place and freedom is brilliantly portrayed.

I’m REALLY behind with writing reviews so I’m going to try to catch up this weekend but then I intend to read The Ghost of Gosswater.

Six for Sunday

Even though the November theme for Six for Sunday, hosted by Steph at A Little But a Lot, is perfect for me, A celebration of kids’ books!, I haven’t been able to do as much reading and blogging as I’d like this month for personal reasons and as work has been hectic! Things are now looking up, so I thought I’d take part this week. The prompt is to share Children’s books you’d love to read. I have ‘over 100’ (a conservative estimate!) children’s books patiently waiting to be read in my bookcases at home, so I’ve decided to choose three I bought about a year ago and three more recent purchases which will all be perfect books to pick up in December.

I’ve had North Child since last Christmas, and just haven’t managed to pick it up yet. I’ve seen so many brilliant recommendations for this, and I already know I’m going to love it! I’ve also got West which is the next book in the series which I think might be for slightly older readers.

I’m choosing one and having one extra here! I read The Polar Bear Explorers’ Club last year and absolutely loved it. I immediately bought the next two, Explorers on Witch Mountain and Explorers on Black Ice Bridge and have kept meaning to read them. December seems like the perfect time to delve back into this wonderful world. There is a new book in this series, The Ocean Squid Explorers’ Club, coming out in February which I’m also really looking forward to.

Nevertell is another one I’ve had since last year. It’s been highly recommended to me by a child in my class who read it over the first lockdown and loved it. I think this will be a perfect wintry, magical adventure.

I absolutely love The Storm Keeper series by Catherine Doyle and couldn’t resist The Miracle on Ebenezer Street, a modern re-imagining of A Christmas Carol. I think there might be tears!

I know you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but this one just screams ‘perfect wintry read’. I’ve loved the other books in the Clifftoppers series, and am looking forward to curling up on the sofa with this one – and a hot chocolate!

I definitely need to read a book with Father Christmas in December! I got this special edition of The Night I Met Father Christmas for my birthday. I didn’t read it when it was first published, so wanted to read the re-issue.

Have you read any of these? What are you hoping to read in December?

MG Takes on Thursday

This is my weekly meme celebrating amazing middle-grade books. I hope others will enjoy taking part in this too!

How to take part:

  • Post a picture of the front cover of a middle-grade book which you have read and would recommend to others with details of the author, illustrator and publisher.
  • Open the book to page 11 and share your favourite sentence. 
  • Write three words to describe the book.
  • Either share why you would recommend this book, or link to your review.

This week, I’m celebrating …

Written by Ross Montgomery
Cover Illustration by David Dean
Published by Walker Books

Favourite Sentence from Page 11:

The knight and the badger turn to the third figure – a Bengal tiger, towering over the room around them.

This book in three words:

FRIENDSHIP, HOPE, MAGIC

WHAT A BOOK! The Midnight Guardians is an exciting, fast-paced and humorous adventure which seamlessly blends history and fantasy into an unforgettable, magical story which celebrates the enduring power of love, hope and friendship to overcome hatred, uncertainty and darkness.  Sheer perfection!

Col has been evacuated from London during the Blitz to live with his Aunt Claire, leaving his older sister Rose behind. Col soon finds himself reunited with his imaginary Guardians – except they have materialised in his world!  The Guardians have come with a dire warning, a warning that sees Col determined to return to London to save his sister from a terrible danger …

So begins a truly astounding adventure that completely and utterly gripped me and swept me completely into its magic.  My heart pounded alongside Col and the Guardians as they race against time to get to London to save Col’s sister … will they be able to win the battle between darkness and light that threatens to destroy the world?  Will they be able to stand firm against the terrible foes they face whilst fulfilling their quest?

The entwining of dark myths and legends against the realistically portrayed backdrop of WWII creates a real sense of peril with a magical sense of wonder that gives an incredible depth and richness to the narrative. 

The three Guardians are just brilliant with a wonderful camaraderie and plenty of humour which lightened some of the darker moments.  They have fantastically individual characters that made them feel endearingly real.  King of Rogues (make sure you address him with his full title or you may well feel his wrath) is a miniature knight with attitude; Mr Noakes is a kind-hearted badger in a waistcoat; and, Pendlebury is the brave and noble Bengal tiger who can alter his size.  There is so much more to them, but everyone deserves the joy of getting to know these three for themselves!  The Guardians have been waiting for Col as he is their only hope in defeating the merciless Midwinter King who is a truly terrible villain who sent shivers down my spine.  He thrives on darkness, and the terrible events of our history feeds his thirst for power and dominion. 

Col is an incredibly sympathetic character.  He is lonely, friendless and grieving the loss of his father.  He feels bitter disappointment and hurt at his sister not coming with him to their Aunt’s home.  Despite his fear, Col great courage in overcoming a terrible enemy in a dangerous time, supported by a wonderfully loyal, protective and supportive circle of friends who give him strength when it is most needed. 

This is an engrossing and epic quest that took me on the most incredibly action-packed, perilous and heart-warming adventure with a cast of amazing characters:  an unforgettable tale of friendship, hope and overcoming darkness.

I was lucky enough to win a copy of this fantastic book on Toppsta.

I’d love if anyone who wants to give this meme a go would comment in the comments box and include a link to your post so I can visit, comment and find some great middle-grade recommendations. If you do create a post and are on Twitter, and would like to share your post, please use the hashtag  #MGTakesOnThursday so I can find it, read it and share it!

WWW Wednesday

I’m currently listening to the audiobook of The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman. My goodness – what a world and what a story! I’ve really found myself immersed in these books, and am so glad I’ve ‘picked’ them up after so many years ignoring them! I will watch the TV series after I’ve finished this one. I’m just about to start my sixth book for Believathon, Tamarind & the Star of Ishta.

I’ve finished reading The Weather Weaver which I’ll be reviewing shortly. I also read Return to Roar which blew me away! I loved The Land of Roar and think this was even better. I just loved the world-building and the sheer escapism I got from reading it. I really do think this is a celebration of the power of the imagination and it just makes me feel good reading it – joyful, humorous, wonderful characters with wonderful messages relating to friendship, self-belief and facing your fears. I really enjoyed the much closer relationship between Arthur and Rose.

I have been lucky enough to have been sent a proof copy of Amari and the Night Brothers by the Publisher for an upcoming Blog Tour. It is one of my most anticipated reads, and I’m so looking forward to reading it this weekend.

Blog Tour: A Thousand Questions by Saadia Faruqi

Cover Image: Aaliya Jaleel

Thank you so much to the author, Saadia Faruqi for inviting me to be part of the Blog Tour for ‘A Thousand Questions’ and to her publisher, Harper Collins for providing me with a copy of the book in exchange for my honest opinion.

My Review:

A Thousand Questions is a heart-warming, character-driven story of the friendship that develops over the course of a summer between two girls from very different worlds who find that, despite their different cultures and social status, they have lots in common.  The voices of both girls are so incredibly rich and authentic that I really felt drawn into their world, and was completely invested in them as they sought to realise their deepest wishes. 

I really enjoyed that the story is written from the dual perspective of Mimi and Sakina which allows a genuine insight into both girls’ thoughts and feelings and their interactions with each other.  I also loved that, through their eyes, I was immersed in the sights, sounds and smells of Karachi, and learnt so much about Pakistani culture and society. 

Mimi is reluctantly spending her summer vacation in Karachi, Pakistan as her mother wants to visit her parents there.  She arrives against the backdrop of a contentious election campaign to meet Grandparents who she has never met in person.  Feeling out of place, she starts a secret journal in which she writes to her father who left the family when she was five years old.  I found these journal entries incredibly touching as they gave such an honest insight into Mimi’s feelings as she shares her pain and self-doubt at losing touch with her father, and her desperate need to find him.  Will she find the answers to the many questions she raises in the city of Karachi?

Sakina is the cook’s daughter and works in Mimi’s Grandparents’ kitchen alongside her father.  She too is keeping a secret from her parents:  she has taken exams to allow her get into school; however, she will only be accepted if she gains a better score in her English test.  Sakina’s family depend on her for additional income, so she faces a dilemma if she does get accepted for school.  Will she have to make a heart-breaking decision between school and family?

Whilst Mimi’s Grandparents are rich and live in a mansion, Mimi’s family live in poverty.  The girls soon meet and form a tentative friendship which is at the core of the story.  I adored following the girls as they get to know each other, learn about their lives, and help each other to fulfil their dreams.  Whilst their differences are apparent, they take the time to get to know each other and discover that they also have lots in common, leading to a close bond filled with honesty, kindness and trust.

I enjoyed so many of the relationships within the story and especially liked the changing dynamics of the relationship between Mimi and her mother and Grandmother.  I also adored the warm and respectful relationship between Sakina and her Abba.  

This story is rich in opportunities for in-depth exploration of class, cultural, political and religious differences, but is also perfect for discussion around the importance of education, inclusion, friendship and finding opportunities to make a difference. 

A Thousand Questions is a beautifully moving and action-packed story of friendship, change and acceptance that welcomed me into the heart of two families, and left me feeling privileged to have been given this rich insight into their lives.

About the Author:

Author Photo credited to QZB Photography

Saadia Faruqi is a Pakistani American author, essayist and interfaith activist. She writes the children’s early reader series “Yasmin” published by Capstone and other books for children, including middle grade novels “A Place At The Table” (HMH/Clarion 2020) co-written with Laura Shovan, and “A Thousand Questions” (Harper Collins 2020). She has also written “Brick Walls: Tales of Hope & Courage from Pakistan” a short story collection for adults and teens. Saadia is editor-in-chief of Blue Minaret, a magazine for Muslim art, poetry and prose, and was featured in Oprah Magazine in 2017 as a woman making a difference in her community. She resides in Houston, TX with her husband and children.  (information taken from author website).

Social Media Links:

Twitter: @SaadiaFaruqi

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/saadiafaruqi/

Website: http://www.saadiafaruqi.com

To read more about this wonderful book, please check out the rest of the stops on the Blog Tour:

MG Takes on Thursday

This is my weekly meme celebrating amazing middle-grade books. I hope others will enjoy taking part in this too!

How to take part:

  • Post a picture of the front cover of a middle-grade book which you have read and would recommend to others with details of the author, illustrator and publisher.
  • Open the book to page 11 and share your favourite sentence. 
  • Write three words to describe the book.
  • Either share why you would recommend this book, or link to your review.

This week, I’m celebrating …

Written by Kimberley Pauley
Illustrated by Jason Cockcroft
Published by Scholastic

Favourite Sentence from Page 11:

Twig got down on his knees so he could talk to the little gnome woman who was staring angrily up at Glimfinkle and shaking her fist.

This book in three words:

MAGIC, FRIENDSHIP, HUMOUR

I absolutely loved this brilliantly warm, magical story filled with adventure, humour and friendship with the MOST brilliant characters who everyone needs to meet. I really, really hope there will be more adventures for Twig, Vile and Glimfinkle because they were just what I needed in my life over the last few days. They are guaranteed to bring a much-needed smile to any reader.

In order to escape his large family, Twig has become apprentice to Ripplemintz the Sage who, it is fair to say, is not the most successful wizard in the Kingdom of Muckwood. After releasing an accidental spell, he tasks Twig with finding and containing the escaped spell. As he hunts the spell down, he finds that it has been working its magic – he meets Glimfinkle the gnome who has grown rather large and declared himself King of the Garden Gnomes, much to the chagrin of the other gnomes. After hanging him on a tree branch by his braces, Twig continues to hunt down the spell, but it has become too large and enters him as he tries to trap it, accidentally making him the world’s greatest wizard.

Twig is rather enjoying his new power until King Mervyn hears of it, and insists that he takes part in the annual Euphonium, a gathering of wizards, witches and hags from across the Kingdoms. He is determined to get rid of his power and become the Twig no-one had any expectations of again …

So begins THE most wonderful, action-packed, fun-filled adventure as Twig tries to rid himself of his new powers whilst finding himself being ever drawn towards the Euphonium. He meets the young hag Vile who is incredibly disappointed not to look as ugly as her sister. Vile is such a brilliant character – strong, feisty and oodles of fun. Her arguments with Glimfinkle, who joins them, uninvited, are utterly brilliant.

The friendship that develops between Twig, Vile and Glimfinkle is incredibly heart-warming and genuine. They may argue (which gives rise to lots of humour) but they also look out for, and support, each other.   This story has a powerful message showing that it is what is on the inside that is important rather than outward appearances and that learning to accept yourself and have self-belief has its own magic.

The illustrations throughout are just perfect, and really capture the magic of the book brilliantly.

I was lucky enough to spot a promotion on Twitter where some bookshops were sending wands and Certificates of Authenticity made by the very talented author. I immediately ordered another copy in the hope that I was lucky enough to be sent one – and I was! I can’t believe that I got Wand No. 7 out of 30, and that it had a green decoration: 7 is my lucky number and green is my favourite colour!

I’d love if anyone who wants to give this meme a go would comment in the comments box and include a link to your post so I can visit, comment and find some great middle-grade recommendations. If you do create a post and are on Twitter, and would like to share your post, please use the hashtag  #MGTakesOnThursday so I can find it, read it and share it!

WWW Wednesday

I’m currently reading The Accidental Wizard and am really enjoying it – magic, laughs and adventure – just what I need to escape to right now! I’m listening to the audiobook of Jolly Foul Play (which is a Believathon prompt for me). This is definitely keeping me entertained on my way to and from work! I’m going to assume that there is a twist and the murderer/s is not who I’m thinking!

I’ve read Theodora Hendrix and the Monstrous League of Monsters which was a really fun read with plenty of humour and adventure. A brilliant range of monsters live together in an old mansion with a not-to-be-broken rule: keep yourselves hidden from humans. This is going well until zombie George crawls out of his grave to find an abandoned baby in the graveyard. In order to save her from being eaten by hobgoblins, he takes her home where she is brought up by the monsters. They are a wonderful family. Ten years later and their secret is about to be revealed. Theodora must investigate in order to save her family. I think this is one my class will love.

I also read A Thousand Questions which is a really wonderful heart-warming story of family and the friendship which forms between two girls from different countries, both with problems to overcome. The depiction of modern-day Karachi by an own voices author is brilliant. I will be posting my review as part of the upcoming Blog Tour.

I’m hoping to complete another couple of Believathon reads by next Wednesday. I’ve chosen two of my NetGalley approvals: The Valley of Lost Secrets and The Weather Weaver.

October Wrap-Up

Well, October has been a whirlwind of teaching, reading, shopping for books and starting watching Christmas films – not too early at all! I was meant to go and visit my Mum in Northern Ireland over half -term, but it was put into lockdown and, as I’ve been working closely with children, I decided I couldn’t take the risk. This was a really hard decision as I have no idea when I’ll get to see my family in Ireland again. Not sure what to expect in the next month with teaching, but I do know that I’m going to take time to cosy up with plenty of the books on my TBR as they are just what I need now.

Books I’ve read:

I’ve read 19 books this month which includes 12 physical books, 3 e-books and audiobooks (but I switched to the paperback of one part way through).

Physical books:

I was sent Midnight Magic, Zombierella, Toto the Ninja Cat by the Publishers in exchange for honest reviews, and bought the others. I did have an e-ARC of Tinsel, but I bought and read the gorgeous hardback as well.

e-books:

I read an e-ARC of The Time Traveller and the Tiger after being approved to read it by the Publisher via NetGalley. I read The Silver Arrow on Borrowbox and I bought an e-copy of Boy, Everywhere directly from the publisher.

audiobooks:

I listened to all of these on Borrowbox, but I did switch to the physical book of Moonchild about a third of the way through.

Books I’ve bought:

Yet again, I’ve bought more books than I can manage to read, but I did give quite a lot of my adult and young adult books to a local charity shop, so I have room on my bookshelves! This month I’ve bought 14 books (13 physical and 1 e-book). I had already read The Castle of Tangled Magic on NetGalley, but I couldn’t resist a lovely signed copy. I had also already read The Midnight Swan on NetGalley, but a girl in my class was devouring the series, so I couldn’t help getting a copy for my class library so she could finish the series – she was so excited to see it was a signed copy.

NetGalley:

My Feedback Ratio is currently at 93%, and I’ve finally managed to get my 50 Reviews Badge which I’m very excited about as it’s taken a while! I currently have 4 books on my NetGalley shelf which I’m hoping to read in November:

October posts:

I added 24 blog posts to my Blog in October, so it has been a good month for blogging. I took part in WWW Wednesday, Top Ten Tuesday and First Lines Friday. I’m also continuing to celebrate wonderful middle-grade releases in my weekly meme, MG Takes on Thursday. I also did an Middle-grade anticipated releases for November and December post. The reviews I’ve posted are linked below:

  1. Toto the Ninja Cat and the Mystery Jewel Thief. This was sent to be by the Publisher.
  2. Tinsel: The Girls Who Invented Christmas. I had an e-ARC of this approved on NetGalley, but I bought the gorgeous hardback and read
  3. Malice in Underland. This is one I bought and recommended on MG Takes on Thursday.
  4. The Time Traveller and the Tiger. I was approved to read an e-ARC on NetGalley.
  5. Midnight Magic. I was sent a copy by the Publisher, and took part in the Blog Tour, sharing a chapter extract and my review.
  6. A Secret of Birds and Bone. This is one I bought and recommended on MG Takes on Thursday.
  7. The Castle of Tangled Magic. I was approved to read an e-ARC on NetGalley, but have also bought a physical copy.
  8. Molly Thompson and the Crypt of the Blue Moon. This is one I bought.
  9. The Griffin Gate. This is one I bought.
  10. Witch. This was approved to read an e-ARC on NetGalley.

That’s a wrap! A good reading month! I’m so glad I’ve found my way into blogging as I’m really loving it, and enjoying making connections with some wonderful bloggers. Reading and blogging have definitely been my much-needed worlds to escape into!

Believathon III: The Mystery of the Missing Maleficarum

I tried (ish) to resist Believathon this year, but I just couldn’t! Believathon is a month-long readathon, starting on 1st November and finishing on 30th November celebrating middle-grade books which is organised by the wonderful Gavin Hetherington @Believathon (Twitter). I had a LOT of books to choose from, but these are the ones which made it to my final choices. I changed my mind a fair few times before settling on these!

In order to solve The Mystery of the Missing Maleficarum, I need to navigate my way through the Manor of Make-Believathon and pick up clues by completing reading challenges along the way.

Here are my choices:

The Key:  read a mystery: The Valley of Lost Secrets by Lesley Parr

The Fingerprints:  read a book written by an author from a different culture: A Thousand Questions by Saadia Faruqi

The Scream:  listen to an audio-book or read a book out loud: Jolly Foul Play by Robin Stevens

The Torn Page:  read a book with a supernatural element: The Weather Weaver by Tamsin Mori

The Crown:  read a book that is set in an alternate world to our own: Delivery to the Lost City by P.G. Bell

The Spilled Ink:  read a book that features ghosts: The Ghost of Gosswater by Lucy Strange

The Dagger:  read a book that is set in a dangerous setting: The Forest of Moon and Sword by Amy Raphael

The Backpack:  read a book by a new-to-you author: Amari and the Night Brothers by B.B. Alston

The Footprints:  read a book that features a prominent villain: The Promise Witch by Celine Kiernan

The Hand Mirror:  read a book with a beautiful cover: Tamarind & the Star of Ishta by Jasbinder Bilan

The Chain:  read a book that features a colourful cast of friends: Return to Roar by Jenny McLachlan

The Flash of Lightning:  read a book that incorporates folktales: The Hungry Ghost by H.S. Norup

The Shadow:  read a book that was first published in 2020: Another Twist in the Tale by Catherine Bruton

In order to discover the villain, Gavin will be doing an unmasking video on his Youtube Channel, How to Train your Gavin, on 30th November.

I’m really looking forward to my November reading month. Are you taking part in Believathon?

Review: Toto The Ninja Cat and the Mystery Jewel Thief

Toto The Ninja Cat and the Mystery Jewel Thief is an incredibly fun, action-packed adventure, perfect for younger readers of 6+.  It is the fourth adventure for Toto, but can easily be read as a standalone.

Toto is back on assignment, this time looking after the debonair French animal ambassador, Monsieur Raton Laveur.  This should be an easy assignment for the fully-fledged Ninja Cat, but disaster strikes when showing the ambassador Old Tom’s Collar, the most precious and sacred of the animal crown jewels held in the Tower of London … the Collar has gone missing!  Toto’s boss, Larry, who has one of the only two keys to open the case, is accused of its theft by the Home Secretary Sir Fluffypaws who is not a fan of the Ninja Cats.  Will Toto and her friends be able to prove his innocence? 

So begins a wonderfully action-packed, fun-filled and exciting adventure to solve the mystery of the jewellery theft, brimming with daring exploits, danger, historical revelations – and corgis!  The friends must avoid arrest whilst using all their ingenuity to track down the real thief, or rats and pigeons may never be free again!  Will they be able to recover the precious crown jewels before the real thief unleashes their hidden power?

Toto and her friends are utterly adorable.  They are brave, cheeky, clever and supportive of each other – and they love food, especially cheese sandwiches!  What’s not to love about that?  Despite feeling unsure of her boss Larry, Toto remains loyal and shows kindness towards the other animals, even those trying to arrest her!  She engenders loyalty and support from the other animals who are prepared to help her when aid is needed.  I loved how the animal community worked together and supported each other – often with humorous consequences. 

The layout of this book will appeal to younger readers with its larger font interspersed with bold capitalisation for emphasis, cute pawprints and gorgeous partial and whole-page illustrations which complement the story perfectly, and bring it to vivid life.

This is a fantastic addition to this fun and exciting adventure series, perfect for younger readers who love animal adventure stories filled with humour, loveable characters and, of course, an evil villain.

Thank you to the Publisher and Fritha Lindqvist for a copy in exchange for my honest opinion.